Well, not every episode can be a winner, right? We can’t always have Hodor’s emotional reveal at the end of an episode. Maybe you think I’m not being fair, but really, this episode was a couple of cool moments and a lot of Sam/Gilly nonsense. Let’s chat about it.
We open with Meera dragging Bran in the snow. Bran is still warging out, and we see flashes from the history of Westeros. We see Bran falling, we see the Children and the White Walkers, we see young Ned at the Tower of Joy, and coolest of all, we get a glimpse of the Mad King shouting, “Burn them all!” before another flash where a young Jaime drives a sword into him and then Jaime sits upon the Iron Throne (swoon). More crazy Aerys II, please. The undead army is quickly gaining on them, and Bran knows that they’re cornered. But before the wights can get to Meera and Bran, a hooded man on horseback appears, killing the wights. He tells them to come with him – “the dead don’t rest.” Raise your hand if you guessed who this was before it was revealed.
Meanwhile, in Horn Hill, Sam and Gilly are finally off the boat and on their way to see the Tarlys. This is going to go very well, I’m sure. Sam is nervous, since he and his father have a complicated relationship (e.g., Randyll Tarly told him to go to the Wall or he would kill him). He reminds Gilly to lie and say that the baby is his, so they’ll take care of Gilly and the baby. Oh, and also, Sam adds, his father reeeaaally hates Wildlings, so don’t mention that you’re one of them, okay? At the castle, Sam and Gilly are greeted by his mother, Melessa, and his sister, Talla. They’re surprisingly happy to see him and excited to meet Gilly and the child.
In King’s Landing, Tommen is having another heart to heart with the High Sparrow. Tommen’s worried about Margaery, since her walk of atonement is coming up soon. The High Sparrow lets Tommen visit Margaery in her cell, and Margaery is disturbingly chipper for someone who’s about to walk naked through the city. Margaery tells Tommen that the High Sparrow isn’t what they thought he was, a smile on her face. “He’s helped me,” she says. Either Margaery has been brainwashed or she’s pulling off an incredible act. What about Loras? Tommen asks. Margaery says that she loves her brother, but he needs to atone for his sins. “We all do, sooner or later, one way or another. The gods have a plan for us all.”
Back at Horn Hill, Sam and Gilly (who finally got to wash her hair) are having a lovely family dinner with the rest of the Tarlys. Randyll Tarly is as big of a jerk as we expected. Sam talks a lot – he’s a nervous talker, after all. Randyll says that he read Sam’s letter – he knows that Sam is on his way to study to be a Maester. This is not what Randyll wanted – he wanted the Wall to make his son into a man. Gilly defends him. “He can wield a sword. He killed a White Walker.” Sam’s brother, Dickon, laughs that off. White Walkers aren’t really, obviously. But then Gilly drops in that this happened on the way down to Castle Black, and Randyll immediately picks up on it. She’s a Wildling. Randyll is not pleased. He points to a sword set upon the wall. “See that sword? It’s called Heartsbane. It’s been in our family for 500 years. It’s Valyrian Steel. Only a handful of them left in the world. It’s supposed to go to my firstborn son after I die. To him. He will never wield that sword.” In other words, Sam is definitely going to steal and wield this sword. Sam’s mother storms off, and Randyll finally says that the child will be raised at Horn Hill, but Sam is never to return. After dinner, Sam initially says good-bye to Gilly, sharing a caste kiss (come on, didn’t you two already hook up on the boat? Making out never hurt anyone, Sam) but then returns a moment later. “We belong together,” he tells her as he sneaks out with her and the child. He makes one stop before they leave – to grab Heartsbane off the wall. (Heartsbane is this season’s Chekhov’s Gun. It’s not a question of if this sword will become important, but when.)
In Braavos, Arya is still keeping an eye on her target, Lady Crane. The actors play out Joffrey’s wedding, including his death. As Lady Crane, playing Cersei, launches into a monologue over Joffrey’s body, Arya notices that the young actress playing Sansa is standing in the wings, mouthing along the words. Arya puts two and two together – it’s this young actress who wants Crane dead. Arya sneaks backstage and poisons Lady Crane’s alcohol, as intended. But before she sneaks out, Lady Crane stops her. She’s seen Arya at the play more than once and assumes she’s just a young girl interested in theater herself. Arya and Lady Crane talk about the play for a moment – Arya gives her some advice on Cersei’s motivations before running out, but she returns to stop Lady Crane from drinking the poisoned wine. “Careful with that one,” Arya says, motioning to the actress who plays Sansa. “She wants you dead.” Arya runs off, but the Waif was there, monitoring her. She returns to Jaqen to tell him that Arya didn’t follow through with her mission. Jaqen sends the Waif to kill Arya, who recovers Needle and is apparently now on her own.
Back in King’s Landing, the beautiful Jaime Lannister is about to march with Mace Tyrell and an army to stop Margaery’s walk of atonement. The High Sparrow says he doesn’t have the authority to release Margaery. Jaime swears that “every last Sparrow will die” before Margaery completes her walk. There’s a tense standoff, until the High Sparrow says there is no reason for the walk of atonement today. Everyone, including Jaime, Mace, and Olenna Tyrell, is confused. “Queen Margaery has already atoned for her sins by bringing another into the true light of the Seven.” It’s Tommen, apparently a new convert. Jaime and Olenna share an epic eye roll. “Together, we announce a new age of harmony. A holy alliance between the Crown and the Faith,” says the High Sparrow. Yeeeeaah, I don’t see this lasting long. “What’s happening?” Mace asked (Oh, Mace…) “He’s beaten us,” Olenna snaps. “That’s what’s happening.”
“When you attack the Faith, you attack the Crown,” Tommen says as Jaime is stripped of his armor. He’s being kicked out of the Kingsguard. My heart hurts. Tommen tells him that he will continue to serve his king – but not in King’s Landing.
We visit a familiar face – Walder Frey. He’s yelling at his men for losing Riverrun – or rather, as he insists, they did not lose it. They allowed the Blackfish to take it. The Freys need to take it back, he insists. His men try to talk some sense into him. Riverrun can withstand a siege for a year, after all. But Walder Frey isn’t backing down – “Take that castle back.” Walder Frey has a trump card, too – he still has Edmure Tully as a hostage. “Cheer up, Edmure. You’re going home.”
Jaime tells Cersei that Tommen is sending him to Riverrun to fight against the Tullys and support the Freys. Cersei tells Jaime that he needs to do as told, but Jaime is concerned that her trial is coming up soon. He wants to be there for her. She says she’ll be fine – it’s a trial by combat, and she has the Mountain. They make out a little bit. Cersei, Jaime – just run away and be happy together. You don’t need this crap. Go live your incestuous love affair.
Back beyond the wall, the hooded stranger is killing a rabbit and draining its blood. Bran wants to know who he is, and the figure removes his hood – IT’S BENJEN STARK. “I led a ranging party deep into the North to find White Walkers.” He was stabbed in the gut by a White Walker and left to die. The Children found him and stopped the White Walker’s magic from taking hold. So, Benjen is sort of dead? Sort of revived? He has Bran drink some rabbit blood – they need to prepare for a showdown with the Night’s King, Benjen says.
In Essos, Dany and Daario are leading the Dothraki back to Mereen. Dany asks how many ships it would take to transport everyone to Westeros. A thousand, Daario says, and no one has that kind of fleet. Daario tells her that she wasn’t made to sit on a chair – “you’re a conqueror,” he says. Dany rides out on her own. Some time passes, and as Daario decides he needs to go after her, Dany appears on Drogon (wow, it’s super convenient that he just happened to be around there). Drogon looks HUGE here, no? Dany rallies her Dothraki subjects, asking if they will go with her across the sea and give her the Seven Kingdoms, fulfilling the promise made by Khal Drogo so many seasons ago. The Dothraki respond with an enthusiastic yes, but let’s be honest – who’s going to say no to a dragon?
I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING: Oh, hey, it’s Benjen Stark! As soon as the hooded figure appeared, I guessed it was him, but I was surprised that we brought Benjen back in the story. Since we didn’t have the Coldhands character prior to Bran getting to the Three-Eyed Raven, I thought the show was just nixing that storyline. This is also an interesting twist, because GRRM said that Coldhands was NOT Benjen. Apparently, this is just another point where the show is deviating from the book. (Or this is just more evidence that you can’t trust anything GRRM says.)
Also: I didn’t expect (or love) that Arya had a change of heart and ran off. It seemed to come out of nowhere. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
BUT WHAT ABOUT…: Did we just forget about Dorne? Also, I miss Jon Snow. And where are Brienne & Tormund, my newest and dearest OTP?
OUTRAGEOUS THEORY OF THE WEEK: Vanity Fair has a great article this week entitled, “Is Daenerys Targaryen the Real Villain of Game of Thrones?” My kneejerk reaction to this theory is, “What?! Of course not!” because I want her to be one of the three heads of the dragon. But think about it. It would be a pretty great set-up if GRRM introduces us to Dany at a young age, makes us sympathize with her, and then turns her into a monstrous villain. Madness runs in the Targaryen blood, so the title of this week’s episode – “Blood of my Blood” – may be a nod to more than just Dany’s speech to the Dothraki. In the books, Dany expresses concern about having the same madness as her father – could it be that we’re destined to see Dany go down the same path? It’s an interesting juxtaposition to show us the Mad King yelling, “Burn it all!” and then listen to Dany’s rallying speech. Maybe we’re not heading toward a Jon-Dany-Tyrion team after all. Perhaps the ultimate showdown will be Dany against our other heroes?
Dragons, what do you think? Was I too hard on this episode? Do you actually care about Sam & Gilly? Did Arya’s change of heart come too easily for you? Is Dany actually on her way to becoming the Mad Queen? Leave your thoughts in the comments!